Five Levels of Implementation

I’m often criticized for teaching students in a simplified format. That is having an uke (attacker) punch in and remain static while the tori (defender) executes his or her technique. It seems that they miss the idea that you teach more effectively by isolating the problem from miscellaneous things. For instance, when teaching a child how to speak, you use simple words and sentence structure. Likewise when you teach a child how to read and write, you use lined paper and simple words. You never throw them the Scientific Journal and let them work it out.

This leads to another aspect of Kempo training that is often forgotten or misunderstood — the levels of implementation of a technique and how to control an opponent. When we begin to teach “take-down” moves and simple throws, the goal is to get the uke on the mat. We as instructors are not looking for all the subtle yet vital nuances that make the technique devastating. Rather we just want the gross (or basic) move to work. This provides confidence and develops a feel for the technique.

Approach and deliveryAs the student develops skill with the technique, we introduce other things that are going on. “Turn the arm like that” or “Displace their weight here by moving the hip” are phrases you may here me say. So the crux of this article is there are levels of each technique. It does no one any good to teach all of the levels on the first day. It takes time to move from one to the next.

I also enjoying hearing intermediate students tell me that I forgot to show the white belt the rest of the technique. These well meaning students forget that I taught them the same way. Later when they were much better at the movements, I added more to keep them working towards a better technique. Often times, the instructor does know what he or she is doing when they only teach part of a technique.

Here are some of the levels I’m talking about:

1. Throw onto the ground — as mentioned earlier, this is the basic move. Just get the bad guy on the mat and step back. You have the advantage and hopefully the bad guy gives up.

2. Accelerate to the ground to disrupt brake-fall — at the point where the student can perform the throw well, we introduce them to adding “juice” or accelerating their fall. The intention is to disrupt or stop the opponent from countering the fall with a brake-fall or roll out.

3. Control the fall and position opponent — the next step is to not only accelerating their fall but to guide the fall into a useful position on the mat. Then snatch the opponent and put them in position where you can continue to attack. Usually this is called “seating” or “pinning” at the shoulders and hips. The opponent is pinned and can’t use all their limbs for attack.

4. Apply pressure point strikes and control with locks — once the opponent is pinned it is time to dissuade them from trying to get out. At this level, we teach the application of pressure points and joint locking to control the opponent and gain compliance.

5. Submission — this last step is forcing the opponent to submit to our control and domination of the fight. This is the severe use of joint locks and chokeholds. This is the level that is popularized by Mixed Martial Arts competitions and tournaments.

Training in martial arts is not an instant gratification activity. It takes time and effort to develop the mental and physical skills to perform the techniques. Some moves may seem difficult to execute or perform. This usually means you haven’t trained enough in the art to get it to work. Let the art soak into your muscles and bones. Let the partner training teach you about body weight and how individuals react.

Sometimes these are called the hidden or secret moves of the art. But really they are just the rewards of perseverance and dedication. There are no mysteries to someone who is skilled and devoted to the arts. It all naturally evolves out of practice and application. Explore and apply concepts from one technique that you do well to others. See how the “levels” show themselves in your technique.

There are other layers or levels. Do you have one you’d like to share? Put it in the comment section below.